Bass Instincts

Double-bassist Edgar Meyer bows deep at the Sheldon

When Edgar Meyer was last in town, he was accompanied by violinist Joshua Bell and mandolin-fiddle-banjo-guitar-pickers Sam Bush and Mike Marshall, an odd collection of musical personalities if there ever was one. Bush and Marshall were jokesy folkies, cutting up, playing to the meet-in-a-tent-in-West-Virginia-every-summer crowd. Bell was the aloof, refined, no-nonsense classical artist -- or at least one trying hard to put up with the stage nonsense of Groucho and Chico (i.e. Bush and Marshall).

Meyer -- who has wed himself to an instrument, the double bass, which is an ideal match for his body type -- functioned as the anchor to this menagerie. He deftly handled Bush and Marshall's one-liners as well as he joined Bell in sizzling duets of Meyer's "Concert Duo in Four Movements." And as a fab four, on tour for the Short Trip Home recording, the group of irregulars came together to make music that was sublime. Meyer composed the work on Short Trip Home after a trip to Ireland, and, as a result of that experience, merged the Irish-Appalachia folk traditions with modern idioms, yielding a musical hybrid that brings together great musicians such as Bell, Bush and Marshall who might have never found space on the concert stage together otherwise.

The erasure of musical boundaries has come naturally to Meyer. He grew up in Nashville, where he still lives, with a father who was his first introduction to the double-bass clan and who regularly played both classical and jazz recordings in the Meyer household. Meyer the younger received formal training at Indiana University, where one of his teachers tried to direct him toward the singular pursuit of a classical career. Instead, according to a New Yorker profile of the artist, he took on gigs with a black gospel choir, a Latin band and a country singer, as well as some improv jazz piano in bars.

Meyer told the New Yorker, "I was interested in music," and that interest has generated some of the most listenable music in any genre today. In his solo performance at the Sheldon, he's sure to play from his recent recording of Bach cello suites, performed on the richly sonorous double bass. He'll make that Bach sound new.